Panel 11

Model of the New South: Postbellum Beaufort (1865-1893)

Unlike most of the South, Beaufort County prospered from 1870 to 1893 thanks to northern capital, fresh ideas, and industries that transformed the old plantation-based economy. 

The Civil War completely changed the society and economy of the County. The region’s wealthy planter families were gone, replaced by Northern businessmen and immigrants with ready capital. Industry and commerce were the new economy. The County became a leader in phosphate mining, timber, maritime trade, and cotton production. Downtown, Bay Street bustled with shops, cotton-gins, wharves, and warehouses.

The era of Reconstruction, when most Southern states struggled to integrate millions of newly freed people into society, was an empowering time for local African Americans. They owned land, built homes, had access to education and paying jobs, and used their majority to become active participants in governing the county.

Between 1867 and 1890 the County sent six African American senators and 24 legislators to the capitol, Columbia. Among the outstanding politicians were Robert Smalls, Prince Rivers, William J. Whipper, and Abraham Murchison. The county’s sheriff, clerk of court, coroner, probate judge, treasurer, and county commissioner were all African Americans.

For 30 years, the County was a model for the New South. Black and white residents worked together to build a new society. Tragically their efforts to rebuild the Sea Islands economy  were wiped out by a devastating hurricane in 1893. Two years later, African Americans found themselves disenfranchised by a new constitution that resulted in segregation laws.

Beaufort History Museum
  1. Welcome!
  2. Beaufort County's First People
  3. The Yamasee Indians
  4. Altamaha Town Archaeology
  5. European Superpowers in Carolina
  6. The Greatest and Fairest Haven
  7. Beaufort's Golden Age
  8. Patriots and Loyalists
  9. Antebellum Beaufort – In Town (1782-1861)
  10. Sea Island Cotton
  11. Antebellum Beaufort – Plantations (1782-1861)
  12. Battle of Port Royal (1861)
  13. Beaufort and the Civil War (1861-1865)
  14. The African American Experience (1861-1865)
  15. Model of the New South: Postbellum Beaufort (1865-1893)
  16. Robert Smalls -- The 'King' of Beaufort
  17. The Great Depression – Riches to Rags
  18. The Early 20th Century -- Here Comes the Marines!
  19. The Early 20th Century -- Civil Rights
  20. Rise of the Sunbelt -- Charles Fraser and the Fraser Effect
  21. 21st Century Beaufort -- The 'Chambers' Vision
  22. Preserving Our History
  23. The Greatest and Fairest Haven